Why Is Testing For Genital Herpes Only Recommended For People Who Have Symptoms
CDC recommends herpes testing for people who have genital symptoms for herpes to confirm that they are infected. These events are called having an outbreak, and they appear as blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal. Testing allows a doctor to talk with you about what to expect in the future, which medications are available to help manage any symptoms, and how you can lower your risk of spreading the infection to your sex partner.
If you have a partner with genital herpes, testing can tell if you also have the virus. If you are not infected, your doctor can talk to you about ways to lower your risk of getting genital herpes. If you are a pregnant woman and have a partner with genital herpes, it is very important to get tested. If you get genital herpes during pregnancy your baby could also become infected. Herpes infections in babies can be life-threatening. If you are infected, your doctor will talk to you about your diagnosis and the possible symptoms of genital herpes. In addition, herpes blood testing may be useful if you are seeking a complete STD exam, especially if you have multiple sex partners.
Why Doesnt Everyone Receive A Herpes Blood Test
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 may be common infections today, but a majority of people who actually have this infection will not experience any symptoms. Disease control agencies, such as the CDC do not recommend herpes testing for anyone without symptoms. There is evidence that diagnosing someone without symptoms does not change their sexual behavior.
When discussing your sexual habits with your doctor, it is more effective to determine if you should be tested for any or all STDs instead. This would include a herpes blood test at this point.
If there are bothersome signs and symptoms of a herpes outbreak, then the herpes blood test may be able to provide useful information. Youll want to consider requesting this blood test if any one of these three sexual health issues would describe your current situation.
- You are currently experiencing genital symptoms that you believe could be related to herpes.
- You are currently having sex or have had a sexual partner in the past who you know had genital herpes.
- You have had multiple sexual partners in the recent past and you want to have a complete STD exam.
Is An At Home Herpes Test Accurate
01 Sep 2022
- Written by Dr. Patricia Shelton on September 2, 2022
Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease. Once youre exposed to this virus, it enters your nerve cells, where it can live for the rest of your life. Its possible for the virus to reactivate at any time. When its active, it may cause sores, and you may be able to pass the virus on to others. Even when you dont have sores, you may be able to pass on the virus.
In order to protect both themselves and their partners, many people are wondering how to check for herpes at home. How can you know whether youve been infected with this virus? Is there a rapid herpes test that you can get at home?
Also Check: Can You Get Genital Herpes Without Being Sexually Active
Are There Any Risks To The Test
There is no known risk to having a swab test.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
If you had a lumbar puncture, you may have pain or tenderness in your back where the needle was inserted. You may also get a headache after the procedure.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
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During And After The Test
When you have a urine STI test, it is usually during a regular appointment. You will be asked to pee into a sample collection cup or tube. That tube or cup will be given to one of the medical staff.
Your urine sample will then be sent out to a lab or tested at the clinic. You can leave as soon as you are done giving the sample or when your appointment is finished.
Best Affordable Herpes Test: Healthlabs
HealthLabs offers laboratory-based herpes tests. These may be the best option for people who do not have health insurance and those working with small budgets.
|does not require appointments and accepts walk-ins|
|Con||requires a visit to a laboratory for a healthcare professional to collect the sample|
After placing an order, the person receives a laboratory requisition form, which they need to print out and present at a laboratory. The company claims it has 4,500 laboratory locations, and individuals should receive their test results within 23 business days.
HealthLabs has three herpes tests available for purchase:
- a test for HSV-1, which costs $45
- a test for HSV-2, which costs $45
- a test for HSV-1 and HSV-2, which costs $79
People may also order at-home tests for other STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
|offers tests for early detection of herpes|
|Con||requires a visit to a laboratory|
To order either herpes test, a person must access the company website and enter their ZIP code to find their nearest testing center.
The company claims it has over 4,000 private test centers across the United States.
After ordering the herpes test, a person can walk into their local center to receive the testing. An appointment is not necessary.
The test procedure involves a simple blood test and urine sample, which typically takes a matter of minutes. A person can expect to receive their online test results within 13 days.
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How Is Herpes Treated
Herpes cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Medications are available that can prevent or shorten the duration of herpes outbreaks. There is a medicine that you can take on a daily basis that can help prevent outbreaks and also lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options. Antiviral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir can suppress outbreaks and shorten the duration of symptoms and active shedding of virus.
How Accurate Is The At Home Herpes Test Kit
When you use a reputable at home testing service, then your blood sample will be sent to an accredited laboratory, just as it would if you were getting a blood test ordered by your doctor. This means that the laboratory meets the standards of the US Department of Health & Human Services for accuracy on medical tests. Whether you take the sample at home or it gets taken in a doctors office, it gets sent to the same laboratory.
If you get a positive result on a herpes blood test, this likely indicates that youve been exposed to the virus. Because the herpes virus enters nerve cells and can stay dormant there for a persons whole life, if youve been exposed to herpes, then youre considered to have herpes.
However, there are also false positives on this test. A false positive means that the test shows that you have herpes, when you really dont. In fact, false positive results on the herpes test are more common than for other types of STD tests. This is why doctors dont routinely screen everybody for herpes some people may feel distressed about getting a positive result, when it was actually only a false positive.
If you do get a positive result on your home herpes test, then its important to talk with a healthcare provider to decide what to do. You may want to get another test to confirm your result. Home testing services will generally connect you with a healthcare provider so you can discuss your results.
Also Check: How Does Herpes Affect Your Health
Symptoms Of Utis And Herpes
In many cases, the symptoms experienced by a patient with genital herpes resemble those of a UTI at first, which can lead to the mistaken conclusion that herpes has caused the UTI. Rather, the initial symptoms that tend to occur one or two days before the sores of an outbreak appear may mimic those of a UTI. These include:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Painful urination
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate, as well as difficulty urinating
However, as the symptoms progress, patients with genital herpes also experience:
- Numbness nad tingling or even burning in the genital area
- Watery blisters in and around the genitals
- Tenderness and sores near the rectum
These additional sores, once burst, can take up to four weeks to heal. Throughout this time, hygiene is of the utmost importance to assure that bacteria dont settle into these sores or transfer bacteria from them to the urethra.
Also Check: How Long To Wait To Test For Herpes
Tingling Or Pain Before Blisters Form
If you know you’ve been exposed to herpes, you may want to watch for “prodromal” symptoms. “About 50% of people will have symptoms such as itching, tingling, or pain on genital skin before blisters or sores appear,” said Dr. Shim. Usually, you’ll experience an outbreak later, but it’s possible to have this tingling or itching and have no sores emerge.
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How Do Doctors Test For Stds
How does a doctor test to see if you have STDs?Perry*
There are different tests for different sexually transmitted diseases . The kind of test a person gets will depend on the type of STD, symptoms , and his or her medical and sexual history.
To get this history, a doctor or nurse practitioner will ask about things like how many partners the person has had. After that, the doctor or NP will examine the persons genitals. For girls who have symptoms of STDs, this might include a pelvic exam. Girls who do not have symptoms and are just getting screened for STDs as part of a routine checkup probably wont need a pelvic exam.
Based on whats learned from the interview and exam, the doctor or NP may take one or more of these samples:
- a swab of the inside of the mouth
- a swab from the genitals, such as the urethra in guys or the cervix in girls
- a swab of any discharge or sores
Sometimes, the sample can be tested right there in the health providers office. Other times, the sample is sent to a lab and the results come later. It depends on the office and the type of infection doctors are testing for.
STDs can be sneaky. Often there are no signs that a person has one. Thats not necessarily a good thing. These hidden STDs can still put people at risk for health problems. Anyone who is having sex should get tested.
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
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How Do Healthcare Providers Test For Herpes
How are you tested for herpes at a clinic or healthcare providerâs office? Healthcare providers will examine the location and severity of any active blisters or sores around the mouth or genital area. They may take a tissue sample of the sores to send to a laboratory for examination. A blood sample will be needed if an antibody test is used to check whether you have been infected with the herpes virus.
Also Check: How To Protect Your Partner From Herpes
How To Use An External Condom
1. Open carefully
Dont use teeth, scissors or a knife to open the condom. Roughly tearing or handling the condom can damage it. If the person handling the condom has long fingernails, be extra careful as they can nick the condom, making it ineffective, putting you at risk of STI or unplanned pregnancy.
2. Place and pinch
3. Roll it on
Its recommended to use lubricated condoms and, if needed, add a personal lubricant to the outside of the condom to decrease the risk of breaking and to decrease discomfort.
Polymerase Chain Reaction Test
As with the viral culture, your doctor swabs or scrapes a sample from one of your sores. A lab gets the sample and looks for genes from the herpes virus. PCR test results usually come back to you within 24 hours.
Youre more likely to get this test if you have symptoms but its been longer than 48 hours since they showed up. In this case, you can rely on the results from this test more than the viral culture.
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The Accuracy Of Various Herpes Tests
This table summarizes the overall accuracy of different herpes tests. Please especially pay attention to the most common test, the IgG testâand most importantly to its false positive and false negative rates.
The table has three columns:
- Test accuracy: how accurate is the test in detecting the herpes virus
- False positive: the test detects the presence of herpes, but the person doesnât actually have it
- False negative: the test doesnât detect the presence of herpes, but the person does have it
Please note: the numbers in the table are averages and may vary from case to case based on factors such as when the test is performed , the testing technique, and the herpes viral load.
|100%||0%||Depends on the time of sample collection: usually 25% but may be up to 70%|
|Blood test||Commercially available IgG test: 94%Washington University test: > 99%||Commercially available IgG test: up to 19%Washington University test*: 0%||Commercially available IgG test: up to 38%Washington University test*: 0%|
* The Washington University test is considered the âgold standardâ blood test. The false-negative and false-positive rates for the commercially available IgG test are based on a comparison to the Western blot results of the Washington University test.
Reliability And Choosing A Home Test
People who are considering buying a home test may wish to seek advice from a pharmacist on which test is likely to be best for them. The pharmacist may also be able to show them how to collect the sample at home to prevent inaccuracies.
People who are looking for an at-home herpes test should consider the following before making a purchase:
- Clear information: The company should offer all the information that a person needs for testing, including clear and complete instructions.
- Consultations: Some companies offer consultations for people who wish to discuss their sexual health concerns, particularly if they receive a positive result.
- Treatment plan: Online providers may suggest further testing or treatment depending on the individuals results and concerns.
- Certified laboratories: Some companies work with laboratories with
Anyone who has sexual contact with someone who has received a herpes diagnosis should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
People who have received a positive test result may also wish to consider seeking medical advice.
Currently, herpes is not curable, but doctors can prescribe medications to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms. This may help lower the chance of the infection spreading to other individuals.
Below are some common questions about at-home herpes tests.
Recommended Reading: What Can Help Herpes Outbreaks
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes
Herpes symptoms only occur during periodic outbreaks. The first herpes outbreak usually happens within two weeks of catching the virus. The most noticeable symptom of herpes is the presence of sores which may look like blisters or pimples. These crust over, form a scab, and gradually heal over the course of two to four weeks. You might also experience flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, and swollen glands during the first episode. Some people experience painful urination as well.
Recurrent outbreaks are milder than the first one. These lesions usually heal within two to 12 days. While sores typically appear on the genitals, they may also occur on the buttocks or thighs. Herpes sores can be mistaken for pimples, ingrown hairs, razor burn, hemorrhoids, or insect bites. Many people with herpes are unaware they have the virus.
If You Get A Positive Result Dont Panic It Really Doesnt Mean Much
All of this is to say that unless you have symptoms consistent with the herpes virus, why put yourself through the emotional turmoil of getting a blood test that may or may not give you legit results? As Hutcherson notes, if you do get a blood test and it comes back positive but youâre asymptomatic, what does that mean for you if you have nothing to treat? For many, due to the high rate of stigma still surrounding herpes, it can mean feelings of self-contempt, humiliation, and distress, all of which could be avoided if you arenât experiencing any symptoms.
To recap, while there are some tests for herpes that can prove correct, none are 100 percent perfect, and blood tests are particularly problematic since they can produce false positives and negatives. We also know that the majority of the population has some form of herpes, so IMO itâs a mystery as to why weâre still making a big deal out of it. No one likes blisters or sores, but neither does anyone love having acne, a widespread condition without the same level of attached shame.
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